Priesthood in the Catholic Church

The Priesthood is one of the three holy orders of the Catholic Church.


  • However, nobody can be surprised that the priests, the bishops, and the popes of Rome are sunk into such a bottomless abyss of infamy, when we remember that they are nothing else than the successors of the priests of Bacchus and Jupiter. For not only have they inherited their powers, but they have even kept their very robes and mantles on their shoulders, and their caps on their heads. Like the priests of Bacchus, the priests of the Pope are bound never to marry, by the impious and godless law of celibacy. For every one knows that the priests of Bacchus were, as the priests of Rome, celibates. But, like the priests of the Pope, the priests of Bacchus, to console themselves for the restraints of celibacy, had invented auricular confession. Through the secret confidences of the confessional, the priests of the old idols, as well as those of the newly-invented wafer gods, knew who were strong and weak among their penitents, and under the veil of the sacred mysteries, during the night celebration of their diabolical mysteries, they knew to whom they should address themselves, and make their vows of celibacy an easy yoke.
  • A vast number of Catholic clerics have been tried for sexual crimes ... It is not a matter of regrettable individual lapses, but of a general corruption of morals such as the history of civilization has scarcely ever known . . . No other class of society has ever come to shelter such depravity ... In our civilized world no other class of society has contrived to practice immorality and indulge in filth on a scale resembling than that achieved by the German clergy in all its ranks ... We cannot possibly impose sanctions on unnatural vice and yet at the same time allow thousands upon thousands of priests and brothers of religious Orders to escape scot-free ... A very large number of these priests and Religious work in the confessional ... There is no doubt that even the thousands of cases which have come to light represent but a small fraction of the total moral corruption.
    • Speech by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels on all German wireless stations, May 28, 1937, accusing Catholic priests and monks of immorality and pedophilia on a grand scale. The speech was part of a larger "Nazi campaign in 1937 led by Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels to discredit the Catholic Church following Pope Pius XI’s anti-Nazi encyclical Mit brennender Sorge." Persecution of the Catholic Church in the Third Reich, Facts and Documents (1940, 1941, 2003), "published with the approval of Pope Pius XII". The book's anonymous* author later identified as German Jesuit Walter Mariaux (1894-1963), Pelican Publishing, ISBN 1589801377 ISBN 9781589801370 p. 305. [1]
      * "The man was in fact Dr. Walter Mariaux, a native of Ulzen, Hanover, who in 1935, at the age of 40, joined the Central Church Office for Students in Rome and about the same time became one of the German broadcasters on Vatican radio." Anonymous No Longer, The Wiener Library Bulletin (1963), Volumes 17-19, p. 17.
      Sociologist Compares Today's Crisis to Nazi Smear Campaign, John L. Allen Jr., National Catholic Reporter, Apr. 17, 2010 [2]
  • All Catholic priests cannot be universally characterized in terms of personality and psychological functioning. Like many vocations and professions, a wide variety of individuals choose to become Catholic priests and a range of personality styles and levels of psychological health are represented in the priesthood. However, a fairly small number of research studies have investigated the psychological profiles of Catholic clergy or Catholic seminary students in an effort to better understand the psychological and personality functioning of these individuals (e.g., Banks, Mooney, Mucowski, & Williams, 1984; Bier, 1948; Keddy, Erdberg, & Sammon, 1990; McCarthy, 1942; Weisgerber, 1966). More studies have examined the psychological profiles of non-Catholic clergy such as Protestant ministers (e.g., Ashbrook & Powell, 1967; Ekhardt & Goldsmith, 1984; Patrick, 1990, 1991). The vast majority of these investigations have used the MMPI to assess personality and psychological functioning and the majority of these projects were conducted prior to 1980. However, a review of these and more recent studies indicate that specific clergy personality trends based on group data have surfaced. As part of a comprehensive review of the literature, Nauss (1973) investigated MMPI p~roflles of nine Protestant and two Catholic studies and found "... an amazing similarity..." (p. 84) and a "... high degree of uniformity among MMPI results.., suggest(ing) an easily identifiable pattern" (p. 89) with elevations on the K, Hy, Pd, Mr, and Ma scales and low scores on the Si scale. Nauss described the ministerial personality as being characterized by "... extroversion, reflectiveness or intuitiveness, nurturance, and co-operation, and environment ordering" (p. 89). Nanss further noted that Catholic seminary students tended to be more introverted than Protestants.
  • Some have suggested that priests and applicants to the priesthood too often experience psychological dysfunction (e.g., Gafford, 2001; Meloy, 1986). Others have suggested that the Church system may be designed to encourage men with significant psychosexual difficulties to enter religious life (Doyle, 2003; Sipe, 2004). The question of the psychological health of Catholic priests is an intriguing one that has received a great deal of media attention, but remarkably little empirical investigation in the professional psychological literature.
    Different types of people seek to become Catholic priests and a wide variety of personality styles are found in seminary and in the priesthood. Yet, a small number of empirical studies have examined the typical psychological profile of Catholic priests or seminary applicants (e.g., Banks, Mooney, Mucowski, & Williams, 1984; Gafford, 2001; Keddy, Erdberg, & Sammon, 1990; Kosek, 2000; Plante, Manuel, & Tandez, 1996). Many more research studies have investigated the psychological and personality profiles of non-Catholic clergy, such as Anglican or other protestant ministers (e.g., Ashbrook & Powell, 1967; Ekhardt & Goldsmith, 1984; Francis, Payne, & Jones, 2001; Musson & Francis, 2002; Patrick, 1990, 1991; Thorson, 1992).
  • The Church and society in general have changed a great deal since the 1973 review by Nauss and many wonder if applicants to the priesthood in more recent years are significantly different from those who entered religious life during previous generations. For example, prior to the Nauss review, many boys entered seminaries while they were still teenagers, whereas today’s applicant is likely to be closer to 30 years old (Plante et al., 1996).
  • Keddy et al. (1990) found elevated L scales on the MMPI, suggesting priests often maintain defensive styles, while Dunn (1990) reviewed the professional literature concerning MMPI investigations with Catholic priests, and noted frequent elevations on the Mf, Pt, and Sc Scales. These findings imply that priests, "...tend to be more perfectionistic, worrisome, introversive, socially inept and in more extreme cases, perhaps more isolated and withdrawn" (p. 133). Meloy (1986) suggests that Catholic clergy may tend to be narcissistic. Plante et al (1996) evaluated 21 priest applicants and found elevations on the MMPI measures of defensiveness (L, K, and R scales) as well as the MF, Hy, GF, Re, and OH scales. This suggests that they experience more gender feminine interests, interpersonal sensitivity, social responsibility, and challenges with coping with negative impulses associated with anger and hostility than the general population.

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